After a cycling around Arran last year Alan W wanted to explore the mountains of Arran, and so the idea for this trip was hatched. Nine other members joined in; one accompanied by his wife. Most of us arriving on Thursday eager for a long weekend in the mountains, based at Lochranza campsite on the island described as Scotland in miniature.
Thursday 25th May
Dave, Nigel and Alan W set off from Milton Keynes early morning, catching the late ferry. Gill & Laurence were already in Scotland visiting friends and caught the same early afternoon ferry as Nick & Judith. Mark & Jess had been hiking and wild camping to Knoydart; they caught the ferry from Claonaig direct to Lochranza. With the tents pitched, the pod settled into we all gathered by Gill’s van to say hello and plan our weekend. It was Jess, Mark and Nick’s first weekend away with our Club and the first time Judith had met any of us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before Scotland’s infamous midge population decided to join the party. Despite midge hoods we decided to retreat to tents.
Friday 26th May
En mass we all headed off to Gleann Eagan Biorach climbing steadily reaching Loch na Davie for our lunch stop. Prior to lunch we were ‘treated’ to Dave wild swimming in his namesake loch. Well sort of floating while digging up hands full of mud! Some German walkers confided to Gill, Laurance and Alan W that they were very impressed by Dave’s swim in such cold water. While Dave was swimming Mark and Alan W were practicing taking compass bearings and confirmed points on the A’Chir ridge, a hopeful objecting for the weekend.
After lunch Dave and Nigel returned to the campsite stopping off at various pools in the glen for Dave to indulge in more wild swimming. The remainder of the team carried onto the shoulder below Beinn Bhreac, where the views of A’Chir got better with each step. Nick and Gill were elated to make it here! ˜We then turned north down Glen Diomhan. Here we found a SSSI where three unique native to Arran trees grow. Those with a botanical yearning can learn more about them here. We were amazed by the number of frogs we found on, or close by the paths. Getting close to the coast at Catacol we were buzzed by Sand Martins flying really low over the river. At Catacol we joined the Postman’s path cutting across the headland back to Lochranza.
Six decided to eat at the community owned pub while Dave and Alan W had the pleasure of Nigel cooking a delicious chicken curry for them back at the campsite. There was just a little more breeze tonight which delayed the arrival of the ‘locals’ and allowed us to stay out that little longer.
Saturday 27th May
Gill and Laurance set off to explore Arran with a lap of the island, discovering its many bays, coves and wonderful views.
Nigel and Alan W headed off for a walk around the north east of the island. Passing Hutton’s Unconformity, where the father of modern geology made his monumentous observations. Download this PDF to read more about Hutton’s discovery. Returning to Lochranza over the col between Torr Meadhonach and Creag Ghlas Cuithe from the Lagavan cottage.
Jess and Mark headed off to discover some of the geological features of Arran as well as enjoying swimming in the sea.
Nick and Judith and Dave all did similar island tours; Dave’s did include discovering swimming spots at Blackwaterfoot, on the west of the island. He’d offered to pick up Shane and Stu as they’d only been able to come across as foot passengers so finished at the Brodick to meet their ferry. They then headed to join Alan W and Nigel in the pub just making it in time for last food orders. Phew!
Sunday 28th May
We’d hoped today would be the big one A’Chir ridge, but with six people one rope long enough for the abseil a party of six would take far too long, especially as some of the group hadn’t experienced an exposed scramble before. We split into two groups of four: Jess, Mark, Shane and Stu headed off to do the Sannox Horseshoe; while Gill, Laurance, Nigel and Alan W went for Goatfell via Ciorch na h’Oighe from Sannox. It was only when chatting about our days in the evening we realised that both routes were identical as far as North Goatfell! After following Allt a’Chapuill, a rocky burn, we cut across the mountain face to the ridge and the start of the scrambling. The rock was wonderful and grippy, gentle slabs could be padded across without hands. From the top of Ciorch na h’Oighe Gill thought she could see Ben Nevis in the hazy distance. Gill, Laurance, Nigel and Alan W then followed the ridge onto Mullach Buidhe before the climb up to North Goatfell. Finally, joining the hordes on Goatfell summit enjoying the views. Then the long descent down the ridge with steps, lots of steps (ugh) to the coast and the road back to the car. Broken up by a stop for a drink at the Sannox Hotel.
Just before North Goatfell, Shane and Stu split from Jess and Mark. Jess’s legs were suffering so she and Mark took the direct descent path through Coire Alan to the coast and then followed the road back to the car at Sannox. Meanwhile Stu and Shane carried on with the Glen Sannox Horseshoe heading carefully up the rotten granite to the peak of Cir Mhòr. Then onto Cristal Abhail before arriving at the fabled Ceum na Caillah, or the Witch’s Step. Shane led the way down and up the other side. Following the ridge they crossed Suidhe Fhearghas before following the ridge back down to the glen and their car.
Monday 29th May
After a long hard day yesterday we all went into recovery mode. Stu did a first for MKMC – Bus Boldering. Jumping on the bus outside the campsite he went off in search of two well known boulders. Having a great day, but unwilling to push himself on one face, as the landing zone was straight into the road!
Numerous exploration trips were made by bus, Nigel to Brodick and Dave around the island. Dave being Dave naturally stopped at Blackwaterfoot on the west coast for some swimming in the sea. Jess also went swimming on the west coast while waiting for after dropping Shane and Mark. They went off trail running up North Thundergay, taking in Coire Fhionn Lochen, Beinn Bhreac and Glad Choirein before returning to the coast at Pinmill. Alan stuck to the coast, getting lunch from The Sandwich Shack before carrying on around the coast; eating it while sitting and taking in the seascape over to the Campbelltown peninsula. Gill and Laurance headed off to walk from Brodick around the Clauchland hills.
Most of us took an evening walk around the north of the island, past Hutton’s Unconformity, looking for seals and to watch the sun set. We were slightly disappointed to see no seals, but just as we were starting to head back to the campsite we saw some sea otters. Then as we entered the top of the estuary a cry went up and we saw seals just offshore. Wow. The perfect end to the trip?
With tomorrow being departure day, most did some packing sometime during the evening. Naturally, wearing midge hoods to load cars and roof boxes!
Tuesday 30th May
Our short visit to the wonderful island had come, all to soon, to an end; it was time to strike tents, finish packing and head off home.
Arran is a long way from Milton Keynes, but it’s a wonderful island with lots to offer in its mountains and it does make an excellent destination for a very long weekend or a longer break.